Paul Avelar


Senior Attorney

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Paul Avelar is an attorney in the Institute for Justice’s Arizona office. He joined the Institute in March 2010 and litigates free speech, school choice, property rights, economic liberty and other constitutional cases in both federal and state courts.

Paul represents people nationwide whose free speech rights have been trampled by campaign finance laws. In Arizona Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, he helped represent a group of candidates and independent groups in a successful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the “matching funds” provision of Arizona’s publicly financed elections system. He represented grassroots groups and individuals in Arizona, Mississippi and Washington whose political speech was limited and burdened by laws, which required them to register with the government, navigate a complex web of regulations, face fines and possible criminal penalties merely because they talked about political issues of the day.

Paul represents natural hair braiders across the country to protect their right to earn an honest living. He leads IJ’s national Braiding Freedom Initiative, which is using lawsuits, activism and research to remove laws that require hundreds of hours of training, at a cost of thousands of dollars, just to braid hair. He led—through litigation and legislative efforts— reforms in Arkansas that led to the adoption of the Natural Hair Braid Protection Act. In Clayton v. Steinagel, he successfully represented a braider in challenging a Utah law that forced her to first spend as much as $18,000 for 2,000 hours of instruction—none of which actually taught her how to braid hair.

He is also the author of an Arizona State Bar Task Force letter.

Prior to joining IJ-AZ, Paul worked as an attorney in Philadelphia. He clerked for Judge Roger Miner on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Andrew Hurwitz on the Arizona Supreme Court, and Judge Daniel Barker on the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Paul received his law degree magna cum laude from the Arizona State University College of Law in 2004 and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 2000.

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Research and Reports

  • July 1, 2014    |    Legal and Policy Studies

    Untangling Regulations

    Natural Hair Braiders Fight Against Irrational Licensing

    Natural hair braiding is a beauty practice popular among many African, African-American and immigrant communities in the United States. But braiders in many states have to endure hundreds of hours of unnecessary coursework and pay thousands of dollars before they can legally work.

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